The RPA market is projected to reach USD 10.6B by 2027. [1]

Good riddance to the “old normal.” That’s how Horses for Sources (HfS) summed it up it in a soon-to-be-published qualitative study of enterprises and their evolving automation needs. One of the interviewed companies expressed it in this way: “We’ll get more done in the next 18 months than we have in the last 10 years.” 

This perspective aptly reflects a movement by companies to build new ways to work remotely at scale and quickly address operational gaps when forced to think divergently to meet customer and employee needs. Extreme automation is one of the primary means to those ends. Whether you call it extreme automation, hyperautomation, intelligent automation, or one-above-all automation, it’s essentially the same thing—the application of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic process automation (RPA) combined with foundational automation technologies—like workflow, decisions, and content management—to digitize and automate virtually any type of work at scale. 

The high-level business needs for automation haven’t changed, whether it’s to speed time to value, do more with less, or create resilient customer and employee experiences. What’s changing are the tools to deliver on the promise of extreme automation. RPA is one of those evolving tools—adding AI and other automation capabilities to move beyond simple task automation to broader adoption at scale.

The image below compares traditional and extreme automation:

Why AI-driven RPA tools are a great way to get started with extreme automation 

Before COVID-19, a lot of RPA pilots focused on automating routine tasks in low-profile, back-office processes with limited success. Now, there’s a new urgency to move from simple task automation to scaled automations—or extreme automations—that can handle higher-profile customer-facing and revenue-producing processes. 

50% of companies with RPA initiatives have less than 10 bots in production.

Figuring out how to scale beyond those pilots or small projects remains a challenge. This is where AI-driven RPA tools come in. Instead of adopting automation and AI in islands to duct-tape legacy operating models or speed a limited number of simple tasks in bulky processes, the combination of RPA and AI software enables you to move from swivel-chair processing and routine task management to intelligent straight-through processing. This is where smarter worker bots—some of which can learn, adapt, and act unattended—are dropped right into your processes and systems to work on behalf of (or with) human workers. AI-driven RPA tools enable you to take on new kinds of work and target a wider range of business and IT processes, such as onboarding or incident management.  

IBM acquires new RPA capabilities to support extreme automation

If you saw the IBM announcement blog or the HfS blog, you know why we acquired the Brazil-based RPA provider named WDG SOLUÇÕES EM SISTEMAS E AUTOMAÇÃO DE PROCESSOS LTDA (referred to as “WDG Automation” hereinafter). By bringing robotic process automation and AI-driven chatbot capabilities in house, our aim is to help customers quickly stand up successful AI-infused automation solutions.

To that end, and available now, customers can check out IBM Robotic Process Automation as a Service with WDG Automation (IBM RPA as a Service)—our OEM with WDG Automation. At a glance, IBM RPA as a Service includes the following features:

  • Unattended bots: Use RPA bots to automate repetitive tasks without human intervention.
  • Attended bots: Enable human workers to use bots to perform repetitive tasks on demand.
  • Intelligent virtual agent chatbots: Combine chat and RPA commands to create engaging chatbots through multiple channels, including web and interactive voice response.
  • Optical character recognition (OCR): Process documents by extracting structured data from unstructured content.
  • Credential vault: Securely store log-in credentials for your bots
  • Dashboards: Monitor, manage, and gain business insights into business operations. 

Using this full-featured, cloud-based RPA solution, clients can more easily develop and manage bots by doing the following: 

Take advantage of low code editors to author bots:

  • Select from hundreds of prebuilt commands to assemble bot scripts.
  • Record user interactions to automatically generate bot scripts to accelerate time to value.
  • Test automations using a local bot agent.
  • Store bots securely in an encrypted repository.

Manage bot schedules and configuring workload management:

  • Manage the time schedule for running unattended bots.
  • Intelligently distribute work across multiple bots to optimize throughput.
  • Reduce cost of ownership by running multiple bots on the same virtual host.

Our goal is to make RPA a core capability across the IBM Cloud Pak® family, starting with the IBM Cloud Pak® for Automation by the end of this year, 2020. With RPA capabilities in the IBM Cloud Pak for Automation—and a simpler licensing model—customers can more easily start and scale quick-win task automation projects while benefiting from integrated workflow, capture, decisions, and content management capabilities when needed. 

“As we infuse more AI into the RPA capabilities (such as exception handling, natural language processing, and unstructured content extraction), business and IT teams can look forward to quickly activating intelligent bots that can do more in even more places—compliance, risk, human resources, security, and supply chains—aligning to more job roles, such as the reliability engineer.” — Mike Gilfix, Vice President, IBM Cloud Integration, “Why IBM Acquired This RPA Provider and What It Means for CxOs with Automation Initiatives

It’s important to repeat this reality check: There’s no silver bullet tool. No one RPA tool or bright, shiny object is going to solve the challenge of scaling automations or realizing ROI. You need integrated tools and resources to create end-to-end automations across business and IT operations. And it takes time and talent to be able to do it. We remain committed to providing the time, talent and tools to help customers quickly start and scale end-to-end automation where it can make the most difference.

Next steps

[1] Grand View Research, February 2020

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